Property Rights For Gay Couples

By: Alyssa Fenske Email
By: Alyssa Fenske Email

INGHAM COUNTY (WILX)-- Despite the state's ban on gay marriage, the Ingham County's Register of Deeds recognized a same sex marriage license on Tuesday. Their goal is to give gay couples the same protections traditional couples have when it comes to property rights.

Same-sex couple Chris Swope and and Bradly Rakowski are the first in the state to have their marriage license filed for proof of joint custody. It just took a few signatures and a $20 dollar bill at the Ingham County Register of Deeds office.

"I'm pretty excited about this. It's a big step and we hope were are leading something," said Swope.

Until Tuesday Swope and his partner couldn't prove joint custody of their home. Under Michigan's current law: If a couple is not married and one partner dies, the other partner is not legally entitled to automatically inherit a shared home, assets, or personal items in the absence of a will.

Swope and Rakowski do have a will, but it doesn't completely ensure that after one of them dies the other will be able to keep the house.

"Chris has many cousins that currently have more rights to his estate than I would. How can anybody look at that situation and say that is fair?"

"I've had LGBT citizens call me after their partner has died. They've lost the house because they didn't have the same rights as a married couple," explained Curtis Hertel Jr. with the Ingham County Register of Deeds.

It was those calls that pushed Hertel to first start looking for the loophole in Michigan's ban on gay marriage.

Currently there's nothing in place that prevents Swope and his partner from filing the license; but it's unknown if the courts will recognize the document when they actually use it.

"We are breaking new ground. We've never shied away from controversy," said Hertel.

They don't plan on challenging the courts any time soon, but the hope is that other same sex married couples will soon follow their lead.

"We're just trying to protect ourselves as a family. Hopefully maybe provide a thought for others to do the same," said Swope.

Other same sex married couples are encouraged to go to their local register of deeds to file their marriage license and an affidavit of their own.

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